Tag Archive | parenting

Color the people you love with love

Here’s the song reference.

august 2013 006


From the very first time Bugaboo saw a lady with a freshly painted pedicure, she has been obsessed with coloring my toenails; as soon as she was able to wield a crayon, Beanie joined her in her endless pursuit of the perfect waxy pedicure.  They have since graduated to markers.  Once the two of them discovered tattoos, they graduated to coloring my feet in rainbow hues of marker.

This afternoon, while we were idly watching a special on myths and monsters of the Louisiana Bayou, Beanie remarked that my toenails were looking very colorless, and dashed off the to the kitchen, looking for a handful of markers with which to remedy that situation.  She returned a moment later, triumphantly waving a small rainbow, bounded onto the couch, then seized my feet and set seriously about her work.

I should mention two things at this point, to wit:  I am wildly ticklish on my feet, and only on my feet, and I am violently allergic to nearly every flower on the face of the earth.  One of those facts is well-known to the tribe.  Their blissful ignorance of the other is a credit to the nice lady who taught me the breathing technique I tried to use to avoid an epidural with Bugaboo.

At any rate, I practiced breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth as Beanie quite studiously turned my toenails pink and purple.  Bugaboo, realizing she was missing out on the fun, sprinted to the kitchen and grabbed her own handful of markers; she succeeded in making one toe green before Beanie informed her it was HER turn to give Mommy a pedicure.

This is yet another one of those times where it’s not funny, and I can’t laugh.

Beanie leaned back to assess her work, then frowned before solemnly intoning, “Mommy, your legs are really, really white.  Your legs are like paper.  They look so much like paper that I think I need to draw something on them.”

“Okay, Beanie.  How about if you let Bugaboo help, though?  She really wants to help.”  A rather forlorn Bugaboo was slouched against the couch, watching the interplay out of the corner of one eye.

After heaving the kind of melodramatic sigh that only five-year-old girls and Zsa Zsa Gabor can manage, she grudgingly muttered, “I guess so.”  With great excitement, two little girls set about adding some color to my legs (I am of mostly Irish descent, and have the skin tone to prove it).

As they worked, I set the cable guide to switch over to music after the show we were watching, then programmed in a baseball game Manie and I wanted to watch tonight (He is a Pirates fan, I am an Orioles fan, and we dream of a 1979 rematch).  Once I’d finished, I looked down to see that my right shin was completely covered in wee hearts and flowers.

“Beanie, I like all the hearts and flowers!”

“Thank you.  The hearts are because you love me.  The flowers are because I love you and I wanted to give you flowers that would not make you sneeze.”

august 2013 021

They added some “hugs and kisses,” too.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your blessings, who constantly remind me that love is sometimes messy and often does not happen exactly where or how we think it should.  Thank you for the wisdom to not discourage them from showing their love in their way, and thank You for their steadfast belief that anything associated with love must have the most vibrant and merry colors possible.  Please keep us mindful that genuine love, the love that wishes only the true and lasting good of another, is best seen when it is made vivid, and when it shines forth from every part of us; fix it in our minds that You have given each of us different gifts, different talents, with which to draw all souls to you.  Please help us understand that love seeks always to build up, to beautify the lives of others with flowers that will not make them sneeze. Thank you for markers, for crayons, for all the little hands that brighten up my soul on days when the world has told me my work with Your blessings has no value.  Guard my heart against the insidious whisper that tells me treasures here matter more than Your rewards, and help me teach Your blessings the same watchfulness.

Voices carry

Here’s the song reference.

august 2013 001

The threat of thunderstorms led us to seek mostly indoor pursuits yesterday; the mosquito swarm that infested our back yard for most of yesterday, unfortunately, kept the tribe from venturing out-of-doors to play chase-the-puppy with Smudgie, which is my usual go-to activity when they need to burn off some energy, and, you know, be little noisy kids for a while.  Insect repellent is wonderful, but when the bugs are in such an enormous cluster that you can observe it changing shapes like clouds in the sky, the wiser course of action is to simply avoid the area.

After a relatively uneventful morning studying reading, math, and Latin (incidentally, if you’re looking to work on Latin with littles, I highly recommend Prima Latina), we headed off to the library, just to have a reason to get out of the house for a while without going shopping.  Our library has a wonderful, enclosed area for the very youngest patrons, which bears the charming name of “Preschool Reading Room.”  It is full of giant magnetic letters, huge foam building blocks, a big, sturdy dollhouse, a wall-sized felt playboard, and a small basket of board books.  Mr. Man and Baby Guy think it’s the berries, and Bugaboo and Beanie are not averse to passing a pleasant hour there, either.

august 2013 042

After that hour, the boys were tired and everyone was hungry, so we headed for home and lunch, after which I attempted to put four yawning, stretching children down in their cozy little beds for naps.  There is something about the sight of a bed at naptime which re-energizes all of our children.  Thankfully, Bugaboo and Beanie have learned to channel this second wind into quiet reading time, particularly when the library bag is full of previously unexplored literary goodness.  Mr. Man and Baby Guy, however, tend to use the post-lunch burst to have spectacular fights that involve throwing Mega Bloks at each other and at random points on their walls and door.   These battles are generally accompanied by shrieks of either delight or pain, depending on whether the block being hurled connects with the house or the other brother.  We’ve seriously considered removing the blocks from their room, but when the boys are not using them as missiles, it’s fairly common for Mr. Man to quietly build tower cities while Baby Guy slumbers.

After several reminders to the male half of the tribe that, even with their door closed, the sounds of war were still clearly audible throughout the house, including their sisters (who were, in fact, trying to nap), the noise level finally decreased to a point where it seemed possible that I might be able to recline on the couch and close my own eyes for a few minutes.  It was at that moment that Beanie, who when I had peeked in on her just before retrieving my pillow, had been curled up in a sweetly somnolent ball amongst her stuffed animals, decided to start playing with her alarm clock.  She has an old-fashioned double bell alarm clock of the Hello Kitty variety, and the noise it makes is enough to rouse a comatose elephant.  It’s a wonderful thing in the mornings when two little girls need to get up and moving, but not so much at two o’clock in the afternoon when everyone, including poor Smudgie, is just drifting off for a much-needed nap.

It took a few minutes to calm the startled boys, who finally decided to settle down and sleep, and then the girls came out of their room to see what might await in the afternoon.  We did a little more work on our food pyramid unit; just as I was explaining how to use the dictionary to look up definitions of words, Smudgie developed an urgent need to go outside (mosquitoes or no, a 125 pound dog’s gotta do what a 125 pound dog’s gotta do).  Leaving the girls with a few last words of guidance, a dictionary, and a vocabulary list, I took off down the stairs after Captain Enormous.

I had no sooner opened the back door than the shrieking started from the kitchen, accompanied by the unmistakable sound of the kitchen table being stabbed and drummed upon by pencils in the hands of suddenly insane girls.  The combination of the mosquito swarm and my proximity to the boys’ room meant that I could not leave the door open to run upstairs and remonstrate with them, nor could I holler up at the kitchen window to advise them that their activities were clearly audible to their hearing-impaired mother.  Luckily, Smudgie’s not a mosquito maven, so he finished his business quickly, and we zipped back upstairs together.

Bugaboo and Beanie had the grace to look guilty as soon as they saw my face crest the top step.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for active little blessings who exult in making joyful noises of various kinds.  Please help me teach them that there can be equal joy in moments of silence, and that when our joyful noise-making interferes with our neighbors so that what they hear is an obnoxious racket, we must, in love, lower the volume.  Please grant us the grace of hearts that are grateful for the many tools You have provided, from the power of speech, to the ability to read and write, to nimble hands, and help us offer all those daily tasks and celebrations to You.  Please keep me mindful that my every thought, word, and deed is an offering to You, and let me show Your blessings, by my example, that we do all things with all the love and skill You have granted us.  Help me teach in love instead of complaining in wrath.

Eat like an Egyptian

Here’s the song reference.

Our school year started last Monday, at the girls’ request.  Once the shelves in the corner of the kitchen were taken over by the new school books, both Bugaboo and Beanie reminded me daily of the texts’ existence, and of their great and burning desire to explore and learn from them.  After a month of furious lesson (over) planning, I acceded to their increasingly plaintive requests, and a new school year was born.  Going forward, I think we’ll probably go year-round, with five-to-ten day breaks salted in.  This summer and last taught me that a break of longer than two weeks’ duration is something they neither desire nor enjoy.

august 2013 010

At any rate, our first science unit this year is the study of the food guide pyramid, which is timely because this has been the summer of explaining to Bugaboo that she cannot live on pasta and milk alone, and to Beanie that she cannot live on fruit and juice alone.  Actually, our entire first-grade year in science is devoted to the miracle of our bodies and how we should care for its parts and for it as a whole.  Food is a great starting point, partly because good nutrition plays such an important role in keeping all systems go, as it were, and partly because there are so many excellent tie-ins to math, history, and religion.

Yesterday, we took a stack of grocery ads and cut out pictures of various foods, then labeled the cells in a blank food pyramid and added one example of food from each group.  This was actually a bit of a trial for Beanie, who likes to cut things out very precisely along their outlines, and the picture of strawberries she wanted to use had so very many berries that she became frustrated trying to cut out each one individually; we won’t talk about what happened when she tried to cut out each individual kernel of corn from a picture of corn on the cob.  As it happened, her greatest lesson from yesterday’s exercise was that sometimes, we can lose sight of the larger picture because we become so focused on, and frustrated by, each tiny piece of it.

We also read the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand.  Bugaboo was mightily impressed that the person who gave the food that started the miracle in motion was a child.  We talked about how when we share the best we have to offer, the Lord multiplies it and uses it to feed many more people than we could have fed under our own power, and that this goes not only for loaves of bread and little fishes, but also for acts of kindness and prayers for help.

Today we’re going to cut out more food pictures, this time with the prices, and make a stack of meal planning cards by gluing them to cardboard we’ve reclaimed from cereal and pasta boxes.  We’ll learn about how to estimate and round, because it’s quicker to figure the cost of five pounds of apples at about two dollars a pound than to calculate that same cost at $1.89 per pound, and we’ll learn that “lb.” is the abbreviation for pound.  Mr. Man will probably receive his first pair of scissors that actually cut (I have them hidden in the family room), and be able to join in the fun.  I’m grateful to our local Giant for being so generous with their sale ads!

august 2013 005

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the bounty of good things to eat in Your creation, and for providing for Your blessings, who have never known real physical hunger.  Through teaching them how to be good stewards of their bodies, help me instill in them a desire to be good stewards of all You have given us, from the soil that grows the food to those who lack good food to eat.    Please grant us all the grace of eyes that see the needs of our neighbors and hearts that long to fulfill those needs, not with our expired leftovers, but with our first and best fruits, as we would offer them to You.  Please help us to not only be Your merciful face, but also to see Your glory in the faces of those who hunger and thirst, and to not become so frustrated with their numbers that we seek to send them away instead of coming to You, in faith, for help.

Let her sing

Here’s the song reference.

We said goodbye to Bo last Tuesday.  This is what I posted on Facebook to inform our friends and family that the population of our household had decreased by one beautiful, canine soul:

“We humans are all sad, but at peace.  Smudgie is sad and confused.  Dots insisted on accompanying Bo for his last ride, even after a very direct explanation of what would take place at the vet’s office.  She was a trooper, and refused to leave even when offered the opportunity at the last minute.
For his part, Bo was ready to go.  He complained about the scale, but once in the exam room, he quietly laid down on the big, soft blanket our wonderful vet had set out for him and put his weary old head on my knee.  He left peacefully.  We sang “Taps” to him as he departed.
Every life matters.  Bo saved mine once.  No family could ask for a better friend, playmate, and guardian.
I love you, Bo.  You’ve gone where the good dogs go.  And you’ll always be “Mama’s darlin’ baby boy.”  And the house is too quiet without your snore.  Smudgie is sticking close to your small people and your big people.  You rest.  We’ll be okay.”

Here’s a video of our sweet guardian in better days, if you’re in need  of a laugh.

bo and beanie 2008

Yesterday morning, Beanie decided she wanted to accompany me to early Mass.  This necessitated her rising and shining at 6:30 a.m., in order to allow sufficient time for dressing, grooming, and eating.  To my great delight, she stumbled into the kitchen fully dressed at about 6:45, ate a piece of chocolate cake, then read quietly until it was time to leave about half an hour later.

Manie and I have often referred to Beanie as a “fidget widget.”  She has enormous difficulty sitting quietly and still for extended periods of time, mostly because she is so fascinated by the world around her that she wants to explore and discuss everything.  This poses a certain challenge at Mass.  The Lord, in His wisdom, also blessed her with a great love of reading, so my usual strategy for a successful Mass is twofold, to wit:  one, I go to the early Mass, which is a contemplative Mass with no music (which means it is also of shorter duration) and two, I carry a couple of religiously-themed books in my purse when she goes with me.

One of yesterday’s selections was a little board book with extended lyrics to the well-known tune, “Jesus Loves Me.” I highly recommend this and its companion volumes as baby shower gifts, by the way.  About halfway through the homily, Beanie contracted a case of the wiggles, so I wordlessly handed her the two small volumes I had secreted in my bag, then snuggled her closer to me.  She read the first book silently; then, as the homily ended, she opened the book with the song lyrics.

After a pause for intercessory prayers, which Beanie loves, she settled back in with her book during the presentation of the gifts.  As I mentioned, the early Mass has no music of its own, so the sanctuary was silent except for the occasional rustle of a hand in a purse or pocket rummaging for an offertory envelope.  Before long, people sitting near us, including the elderly lady in front of us who has great difficulty walking, could hear the sweet strains of Beanie quietly warbling her song.

By my logic, as long as she’s quiet and it’s a song that’s appropriate to church (unlike the time Bugaboo burst out with the last verse of “Lola” during the consecration), I’d rather let her sing, sotto voce, than argue with Beanie during Mass.  The family next to us favored her with indulgent smiles, and when the time came to exchange the sign of peace, Beanie was quite the popular little girl.  In fact, the lady in front of us stood, leaned heavily on her cane, seized my hand, and whispered, “Thank you so much for not making her stop.”

July 2013 031

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for little blessings with loving hearts, who yearn to do the difficult works of mercy, then sing praises of Your love.  Please help me remember that You called us to bring the little children to You, hindering them not, and keep it in my mind that they are born loving unconditionally.  It is we who teach them to put prices and conditions of various kinds on love, Lord, and this is our great sin against You.  Grant us wide open hearts, that we may sing of Your love in our thoughts, words, and deeds, and thus lead all souls to rest in You instead of chasing vainly after the things the ignorant hold valuable.

Bitchin’ (at a) Camaro

Here’s the song reference.

July 2013 003

Yesterday morning found us headed over to Deedaw’s to spend a little time with her and with Nephew, who was keeping her company for the day.  We were having a little sing-along in the van when we approached an intersection, at which I thought it prudent to stop before turning right, since there was a truck of impressive size and weight barreling down the road, its driver apparently unaware of or unimpressed by the speed limit for the road.  This caused our rousing chorus of “There Was a Little Rooster” to be punctuated by loud bursts of honking from the individual in the car behind us.  When the truck passed us and the lane was clear for us to make our turn, that car’s driver revved the engine to an impressive volume before zipping around our poor, lumbering Fran the Van and coming back into our lane at a closeness which gave me sure knowledge the anti-lock brakes on said benighted van are, in fact, in proper working order.

Sarcastically, I snapped, “Well, buddy, I hope you get where you’re going,” and started to mutter a few more choice words under my breath, when I heard Bugaboo’s voice, full of concern, from the back seat, pipe up, “Yeah.  He must really be in a hurry.  I hope everything is okay.  It looks like he has an emergency.”

I shut my mouth, and, had the task at hand not required my eyes to remain focused on the road, I would have looked at my feet.  In my head, I had already convicted both the truck driver and the Camaro driver of reckless disregard for public safety, selfishness, arrogance, and quite the host of other unattractive things.  From an objective standpoint, their conduct on the road certainly violated a couple of traffic laws, and it was not inappropriate for me to make note of the breaches, but I had imputed quite a few motives to both of them that were not within my power to truly discern.  What if one, or both, of them, really did have an emergency?  What if they were distracted by some bad news they’d received that morning?

What if someone decided to assess my character on the basis of one bad decision or moment of inattention behind the wheel when I was having a bad day?  What if no one offered me the benefit of the doubt, or a prayer?

After turning down the volume on the music, I thanked my little girl for her lesson.  “You know, Bugaboo, you’re right.  Do you think we should take a minute and say a prayer for that man, a prayer that he gets to where he’s going safely?”

“Uh-huh.  Because he was going really fast.  We need to pray he doesn’t have an accident.”

“Good call, Bugaboo.  Let’s do that.  Praying hands, everyone.  Let’s pray for that man, for whoever he’s going to see, and for the other drivers on the road, that all those people get safely to someone who loves them.”

July 2013 006

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the bounty of teachers You’ve given me over the years, particularly for Your blessings, whose innocence leads them to love their neighbors in the face of conduct that tries their parents’ charity and faith.  Please convert my heart so that when I see reckless behavior, my first impulse is to pray instead of curse, and help me teach Your blessings to offer help instead of condemnation, as You taught.  Please open my eyes to the danger my own sins cause to those around me, whether that danger is physical or spiritual, and mold me into a better steward of all Your gifts.  Help me teach Your blessings that I will lead no one to You by hurling angry invective out a car window, but I might just chase someone away if that person perceives this is how Your children treat one another.

Things on my chest I need to confess

Here’s the song reference.

I have been told, privately, by several people, that Dailymomprayers paints an unrealistic picture of our daily life, where everything always ends up sunshine and rainbows.  This is most emphatically not the case; however, I do make an effort to find that tiny nugget of joy, or the lesson, from each day and share it, to encourage both myself and anyone who happens upon this blog.

July 2013 002

Yesterday morning actually began shortly after 3 a.m. for me.  Tuesday and Wednesday were rather hectic around here, and I did not realize until I woke up at shortly after 3 a.m. on Thursday that I had not showered since Monday morning.  The reason I awoke at shortly after 3 a.m. was the furious itching of my scalp, the only cure for which seemed to be an immediate shower.  As I exited the shower, I heard Bo complaining from downstairs, where he decided to camp out for the night, so I headed downstairs somewhat after 3:30 a.m.; the poor old lad had apparently lost his balance and gotten his leg stuck under a bookshelf.  After extricating him from his plight, I took him outside for a rather-too-early constitutional, then brought him upstairs so he could get to the big water dish (and raid Smudgie’s leftovers if he was so inclined).

Getting Bo a drink of water is not as simple as it sounds, as his feet tend to slide on the kitchen linoleum.  He braces his feet against mine and take slow sips until he’s slaked his thirst.  A little after 4 a.m., Bo finished his drink and decided to go for a slow stroll around the kitchen.  Of course, his feet slid, causing him to crash one of the chairs into the kitchen table.

I am blessed with three children and a husband who can sleep through a nuclear blast.

I am also blessed with Mr. Man, who wakes at the sound of a feather falling from a robin in a tree four counties over.  Frankly, I was astonished that my shower hadn’t roused him, so I wasn’t surprised when I suddenly heard a muffled, “Hey!  What’s that noise?” coming from the boys’ room.  Usually, he rolls over and goes back to sleep after a few minutes, so I helped Bo settle into a comfy (and quiet) spot on the living room floor.

By the time Bo was tucked in, it was about 4:30 a.m., and Mr. Man had begun a shouting match with one of his stuffed animals.  While it was pretty one-sided, It was also at a volume that would have precluded my going back to sleep immediately, so I settled in, finished writing yesterday morning’s post, and started the coffee.  I honestly anticipated falling asleep on the couch after I was done typing, and thought it would be a good thing to have the coffee waiting when one of the girls woke me again.

I should probably mention at this point that I fell asleep sometime after 1:00 a.m. Thursday morning.

At around 5:30 a.m., Mr. Man finally succeeded in waking up Baby Guy.

At around 6:30 a.m., I went downstairs and informed the boys that it was entirely too early for either of them, much less both, to be awake.

At around 7:15 a.m., Manie came into the kitchen to have breakfast and put his lunch together.  I shuffled in to refill my coffee cup and mentioned that the house had been steadily awakening since sometime after 3 a.m.  He pointed out that it might be a good idea for me to try to get some more sleep.  I pointed out that while I concurred with his assessment, the noise level was rendering that impossible, and if I didn’t make the morning phone calls by 8 a.m., a ringing phone would increase said noise level further.

He shook his head and remarked that it appeared I was in for a long day.

A little after 7:30 a.m., I surrendered and shooed the boys upstairs for breakfast.

A little after 8 a.m., Bugaboo and Beanie bubbled into the kitchen.

A little after 9 a.m., after the boys had picked at their breakfasts, harassed their sisters, and spent so much time rubbing their eyes and yawning that I feared for the structural integrity of their skulls, I shooed them back downstairs and into their beds, with strict instructions to remain therein and quiet, preferably asleep.  After tucking in the apparently exhausted boys, I returned to the kitchen, where I was greeted with a request for jigsaw puzzles by Bugaboo and Beanie.  That sounded like a quiet pastime, so I stacked several boxes on the table with instructions to either assemble them with sisterly tenderness or work on two different puzzles at opposite ends of the table. Bo was in need of a trip outside, so I assisted him, then returned to bed.

Around 9:30, I headed downstairs, pulled Baby Guy off the top of the dresser, retrieved the pen George was using to draw pictures upon and tear holes in his sheet, sternly repeated my earlier instruction to go back to sleep or at least rest quietly, then returned to bed.

Shortly before 10:00, I re-emerged to advise Beanie that her bed is not intended for use as a trampoline.  Back to bed.

Shortly after 10:00, I roared out of bed, threw on some presentable clothes, exited the bedroom, roared at two noisy little girls to get dressed and shod immediately if not sooner, went downstairs to issue a similar admonition (with more, shall we say, technical support) to two noisy little boys.

Around 10:30, I shooed the lot of them out the front door and into the van, uttering admonitions about the need for sufficient sleep for all members of the family and advising the tribe that if no one was going to either sleep or allow me to do so, we were going to go run a couple of errands.

Around 11:00, we arrived at the mall and bundled the boys into the double stroller.  I informed Mr. Man and Baby Guy that they would remain in the stroller for the duration of our visit to the mall, which might or might not include lunch or time at the playground.  Baby Guy and Mr. Man responded by informing of every single passer-by of their distaste for clothes shopping with their sisters at full volume, accompanied by tears and pounding of fists on the stroller sides.  This continued through four stores, three of which had very sympathetic and efficient employees.  We did succeed in acquiring first-day-of-homeschool outfits that were acceptable to Bugaboo and Beanie.

Around 12:00, we were homeward bound, both boys still full-throatedly voicing their opposition to anything and everything connected with our outing, the van, their sisters, and anything else that did not involve copious quantities of chocolate.  I was beginning to sympathize.

Around 12:30, we had finished lunch, and both boys were again rubbing their eyes and yawning heartily.  I tucked them into their beds, helped Bo get outside, brought Bo upstairs, and had a little chat with the girls about acceptable options for the next hour or two while the boys were sleeping.  The girls helpfully informed me that even they could hear the boys were not sleeping.  I helpfully informed them that notwithstanding that bit of trivia, it happened to be quiet time, and while I would be more than happy to turn on the Pirates-Nationals game to assist them with closing their eyes, my expectation was that each and every member of the family would practice both horizontality and silence.  Pillows and blankets were duly arranged in the living room, I assumed my spot on the couch, Bugaboo claimed the loveseat, and Beanie decided to curl up in the hollow of my legs.  Both girls were saggy-eyed and yawning, so a nap appeared to be in order.

Around 1:00, I asked Beanie to please stop kicking me, then rose, headed downstairs, put the boys back in their beds, and informed them that while the block tower they had built was impressive, neither it nor the noise made by the blocks they were throwing at it in their attempt to knock it down was conducive to sleep.  For anyone.  My tone and word choice probably weren’t conducive to sleep either.  I put them back into their beds, went back upstairs, and origami-ed myself back onto the couch around Beanie.

Around 1:30, I again advised Beanie that I don’t like being kicked or head-butted, and suggested that if she was having trouble getting comfortable on the couch, perhaps either the floor or her cozy bed would be better alternatives. She decided on her bed.  Bugaboo chimed in that she was doing likewise, as the baseball game was so fascinating that she could not fall asleep.  As they bundled up their blankets and pillows, I returned to the boys’ room, rescued the painting Mr. Man had Baby Guy climb to the bookcase to take down from the wall, rescued Baby Guy from the top of the bookcase, put them both back in their beds with an even sterner admonition to take a nap, then returned to the couch.

Around 2:00, I entered the girls’ room, informed them that while I was delighted with their powers of imagination, repeatedly slamming a bed into the wall to imitate the rocking motion of a ship at sea was not an acceptable activity when anyone in the house was trying to sleep, particularly if that someone happened to be me, told them that closing their bedroom door did not buffer sounds of that nature, explained that whining was not an acceptable response to my sensible advice, and admonished them both to get in their beds, close their eyes and mouths, and take a nap.  As I finished my instructions, I heard a crash and a wail from the boys’ room and headed downstairs.  Mr. Man was counseling his younger brother in the ill-advisedness of attempting to play with his older brother’s toy grill, particularly when said elder brother was sleep-deprived.  From the position of the various objects on the floor, it appeared that this counseling had involved several items of play food and a stuffed bear.  I issued further admonitions of various kinds, punctuated by several words and phrases I’d rather they didn’t repeat, put them back in their beds again, and stomped back upstairs.  Bo needed a drink by then, so I helped him obtain one.  Smudgie needed a hug, so I gave him one.  A quick check on the girls revealed that they were both snoozing.  There was quiet belowdecks.  I returned to the couch a little before 3:00.

Around 3:15, a thud coming from the boys’ room shook the walls, so I arose again, jumped down both flights of stairs, and flung open their door to see Mr. Man climbing back up to perch on the headboard of his bed, preparatory to what I surmised was another mighty leap therefrom.  Baby Guy was clapping and cheering in delight at his brother’s mad acrobatic skills.  I sighed, surrendered, filled four cups with milk, put out a big bowl of carrots for a snack, and settled in to read the crew a couple of stories around the kitchen table.  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day somehow managed to avoid being on the reading list.  I didn’t even consider The Napping House, as I think it would have sent me completely over the edge.  By a little after 4:00, the kids were off finding things to do and games to play, so I started working on dinner and a little desultory kitchen cleanup.

July 2013 001

Around 5:00, I went to sit on the couch and catch the news headlines.  Mr. Man plunked himself down on the opposite end of the couch, stuck his thumb in his mouth, and promptly fell asleep.  Almost simultaneously, I heard Baby Guy crying downstairs.  Before I could get up to see what was the matter, Bugaboo, my chief champion snitch, burst into the living room, shaking her head and sorrowfully reporting that Baby Guy had climbed into his bed and fallen asleep, right in the middle of playing chef with her and Beanie, and that Beanie had taken it upon herself to rouse him from his slumbers.

I paused for a moment, then started to speak.

I closed my mouth and paused for another moment.

I gathered my oldest daughter to me, hugged her tenderly, and, with what I hope was a smile on my face, told her that she and Beanie had carte blanche to do whatever did not involve theft or assault to keep their brothers awake until after dinner.

July 2013 006

Today’s prayer:  Lord, I didn’t do very well with patience, perseverance, or doing unto others as I would have them do unto me yesterday.  Please grant me the grace of a patient heart, one that bears annoyances with mildness.  Thank You for the blessing of four energetic children, who look to me for an example, and help me set one for them that shows them that handling the minor adversities of everyday life with grace and joy are essential to the ability of those around us to see our love for You.  Keep us all mindful that love for one’s neighbor starts with love in the home, and that we are called to forgive each other as You have forgiven us.

Let’s hear it for the mom, let’s give the mom a hand

Here’s the song reference.

Before I get into the meat of this post, I would like to let everyone who inquired know that Bo lived his yesterday with great enthusiasm, trundling around the yard and eating anything that came within reach of his mouth, including most of Smudgie’s dinner.  He’s done this miraculous turnaround enough times now that we are considering changing his name to Lazarus.  The best working theory is that he suffered either another stroke or a seizure and needed the day to recover.  Our whole family would like to thank everyone who offered a kind word or a prayer.  The kindness of friends and strangers alike was a great blessing.

Yesterday was, however, the sort of day in which the effects of Monday’s stress came shining through.  As saintly as all the tiny people had been on the day Bo was ailing, they were the opposite in like measure yesterday.  Neither an instruction nor a meal came without arguments, sass, thrown missiles, or wailing.  I was deeply grateful when Baby Guy put himself to bed for a nap after he ate about four bites of the lunch he had specifically requested, then cried, “NO NO NO NO NO,” over.

In self-defense, and to preserve the tattered remnants of both my sanity and my hearing, I turned on Netflix and settled in to watch a few episodes of Super Hero Squad with Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man.  Beanie is not much on video entertainment, and quickly left the huddle on the couch for the loveseat and a couple of story books, while Bugaboo and Mr. Man snuggled close and snickered at the misadventures of Modoc and Dr. Doom in the face of the unbeatable Squaddies.  I think I may have closed my eyes for a few minutes somewhere in there, enjoying the sound of Bo’s steady breathing and Smudgie’s gentle snoring, audible over the low sound of the television.

Closing my eyes in a room occupied by three children, I should know by now, is the parenting equivalent of my nerdy high-school-aged self walking around with a “Kick Me” sign taped to my back.  If there is a thing to be disputed, whether it be how much of which couch cushion each child’s rear and feet should occupy or whether Mr. Man should be allowed so much as a sidelong glance at the Wiimote in Bugaboo’s hand, it will be, generally with the maximum possible volume and vehemence.

Having separated Bugaboo and Mr. Man by sing my body as a barrier, and sternly cautioned Beanie that under no circumstances was she to stir the pot from her perch on the loveseat, I started to close my eyes again, only to be jarred from any hope of a few minutes of peace by Baby Guy pounding on the door to the boys’ room.  He had apparently been awakened by the commotion and was eager to contribute his full measure to the mayhem.  Beanie hurriedly scurried to the fridge to retrieve her baby brother’s sippy cup and spring him from captivity; happily, the two of them decided they’d rather concoct fabulous feasts in the play kitchen downstairs than compete with the TV for Bugaboo and Mr. Man’s attention.  I took advantage of the distraction to get the dishes done and assemble a change of clothes for Manie; we were headed to Deedaw’s for dinner, and after a day in the July heat looking at wrecked cars, my best guy always appreciates comfortable shoes and dry apparel.

Since the girls’ room was a disaster area and the two couch potatoes had already had a bit too much screen time for my liking, I shut down the Super Hero Squad session after the dishes were done.  Mr. Man was unfazed by this, and headed downstairs to join in the kitchen chaos.  Bugaboo, on the other hand, found this development to be altogether outrageous, and proceeded to inform me, less than politely, that additional episodes were essential to her happiness.  I, in turn, proceeded to inform her that picking up her toys and books would very presently become even more essential to her happiness, as it’s not unknown at our house for toys that are not properly put away to be given away for children who will appreciate them more.  Additional unpleasantness ensued.  I’ll spare you the play-by-play; suffice it to say that several toys were quarantined in the linen closet pending a change in attitude and the proper storage of the remainder.  Beanie, in the meantime, had ventured upstairs and begun to quietly make her bed and put away the shoes that were strewn about the room.  Eventually, Bugaboo decided that it was in her best interests to follow suit, and we were able to leave for Deedaw’s at a decent hour of the late afternoon.

Once there, Bugaboo returned to being her usual kind and helpful little self, assisting Deedaw (who had her second successful cataract surgery yesterday) with some laundry and chattering away while I got dinner started.  All was calm and peaceful until Beanie discovered a balloon Nephew had left behind from his visit with Deedaw on Tuesday.  Bugaboo decided she wanted the balloon more than she wanted to be civilized.  Then she also decided she wanted Mr. Man’s bubble fan more than she wanted to be civilized.  Beanie was sent to the loveseat in the living room, Bugaboo was sent to the rocking chair in the family room, Mr. Man was given back his toy, and Baby Guy was given a fresh cup of milk at his request.

Beanie politely asked to be allowed to read, a request which I not only granted, but also used to give her the means of ending her time out; if she were to read a story to either Mr. Man or Baby Guy (of their choosing), she would be allowed to leave the loveseat and play.  This was highly acceptable to Beanie (and to Mr. Man, who promptly brought her several choices).  Bugaboo, on the other hand, decided to resume her earlier stream of nastiness, complaining in the ugliest tone and terms possible about everything from her dislike of the chair to her lack of desire to be seated therein to the lighting in the room.  Even Deedaw, who is very indulgent towards the grandchildren, was appalled.

Once again, I’ll skip the play-by-play.  Suffice it to say that in the end, Bugaboo was banished to the basement steps until she could regain something resembling a civilized demeanor, then allowed to return to the rocking chair until Manie got home.  When he did, I went for a short walk while she poured out her tale of woe and injustices suffered to him.

I returned to an apology from a puffy-faced Bugaboo.  After I wiped her tears away and shared big hugs with her, I set about getting dinner on the table.  Fortunately, dinner was a hit with the midget mob.  It was a relief to have one meal eaten with minimal dissension from the ranks.

After the dinner dishes had been cleared away and the tribe had grown manic from fatigue, Manie and I bade them all give Deedaw hugs and kisses, as the hour for our departure had grown nigh.  That instruction reopened the complaint department, and we were suddenly besieged with a thousand little requests for THINGS THAT MUST HAPPEN BEFORE WE CAN LEAVE.  Since we were already half an hour past all of their bedtimes, we overruled the objections, and I started herding them all towards the van, a squirming Baby Guy firmly tucked under one arm.

Once they were all securely buckled, I stood in the grass of the front yard for a moment, enjoying the cool of the evening and a slight diminution in the noise level.  Manie and Deedaw had come outside by then, and I was able to give Deedaw the hug and kiss that had been obstructed earlier by an unhappy toddler, and have a quick minute of conversation among the adults.  As we chatted, the pitch and tone of the noise from within the van changed, so I diverted my attention to ascertain the cause of it.

To my very great delight, I heard Beanie exclaim, “Ten cheers for Mommy!”

July 2013 036

This was followed by a little chorus of hurrahs and clapping, all of it loud and enthusiastic.  Manie started to shush them, but I held up a hand and said, “No, please don’t.  I don’t get to hear THIS very often, so please let me enjoy it while it lasts!”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for four little blessings with strong bodies, bright minds, and extraordinary lung capacities.  Please help me to always bear in mind that these things are great gifts, and one for which other parents pray.  Lord, please grant me the grace of a heart that is grateful for your gifts, especially the gifts that have the superficial appearance of work and struggle, that are Your daily will and bread for me.  When I am offered thanks or a reward for them in this life, help me to accept either with humility and with joy for that moment when Your smile comes to me through the mouths of my family.

They wrapped their love around him like a blanket

Here’s the song reference.

Our venerable dog, Bo, appeared ready to shuffle off this mortal coil yesterday morning.  When I awoke, he was gasping for breath, unable to stand, and totally uninterested in food and water.  He had a couple of strokes at the beginning of the year, and we were cautioned a few months ago that his days were likely numbered.  As a result, when there’s been a family event out-of-town that necessitates an overnight stay, we’ve generally chosen to split the family, so that one of us can stay here with the elderly gent; when Great-Grandma left us in April, Manie took the girls in one car, and I followed for an up-and-back-in-24-hours with the boys.

He slept through most of yesterday, and I tearfully informed the tribe that we appeared to have reached Bo’s final hours.  Baby Guy found these tidings fairly unimpressive, probably because to him, they were incomprehensible.  Mr. Man was uncharacteristically quiet, Beanie offered that she was happy for Bo, as we was going to Heaven and would see all of the people she loves and misses, and Bugaboo burst into tears.

With the exception of a very brief errand, we stayed home yesterday.  Bo’s breathing calmed before the kids awoke, so no emergency calls to the vet were necessary, and Manie and I decide that watchful waiting was the best approach to take, so long as our old fellow showed no further signs of distress.  Bugaboo, after giving Bo a teary hug and kiss, went into her room, retrieved her favorite blanket, and tenderly covered Bo with it.  Once Mr. Man and Baby Guy were down for their naps (ostensibly – the noise level from their room throughout would indicate that little if any napping actually occurred), I permitted Bugaboo and Beanie to have a rare TV afternoon, so they could spend lots of time close to the ancient wonder who has been their knight-protector from the day they were born.

We proceeded through the day with very little movement from Bo, although he would smile in his sleep (a trademark behavior of his for over a decade) whenever one of his tiny people cuddled close or petted him.  He didn’t eat or drink, save for once around lunchtime and that with a great deal of assistance, but he was peaceful and in no apparent distress.  Bugaboo raided the bookshelves for every dog story she could find, sat close to him and read him every single one of them, and Beanie sang him little lullabies when she could pry Bugaboo away from the spot by his ears.  It took no small amount of effort to convince the two of them to go to bed last night.  They wanted to stay with Bo.

After we finally got them settled into their beds for the twelfth and last time, we decided to see if Bo was willing or able to awaken.  Manie sat gently on the floor by him with a little dish of water, a can of Mighty Dog, and a baby spoon.  Bo raised his weary head enough to empty the little water dish twice, then happily accepted several spoonfuls of food.  Not much, but enough to make us happy, and the food and water stayed down.  As Manie headed back towards the kitchen with the bowl and spoon, Bo attempted to rise, but couldn’t quite gain his feet unaided. Manie put a supporting hand under Bo’s once-burly chest, and the old man stood, grinning.  We helped him to the kitchen for more water from the “real” water dish, then Manie carried him downstairs for a quick visit outside.  All systems, as they say, were “go.”

As I type this, my old friend, who has been with me since before I met my husband, is resting comfortably under my favorite Orioles blanket, having accepted a small serving of puppy treats and a mighty drink of water.  Every day, we assess whether his declining health and strength constitute an inconvenience to us or suffering for him.  For love’s sake, we can live with an enormous amount of inconvenience – and we can rejoice in being so inconvenienced for one more day.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for creating dogs, and for whoever it was You inspired to turn them into our friends.  Thank You for Bo, who has loved and guarded all of us with all his might since You sent him to me in February of 2001 as a helpless, fluffy puppy, and who is now teaching all of us a most valuable lesson:  that love creates joy, not burdens.  Lord, I am humbled by the hearts of Your blessings, who, instead of complaining that their furry friend is taking up the good spot in front of the television, bring him their best blankets and read him their best storybooks.  Please help me guide them by my example as they translate that practice into wholehearted love for all of Your people, and imprint upon all of our hearts that what is merciful is not necessarily what is expedient.

Throwing roses at her feet

Here’s the song reference.  The lyrics to this particular tune become particularly poignant when you consider the context.  Many of the songs I post only have one line that’s actually relevant to the post, but this one made me cry when I stopped to consider it in its entirety.

Beanie has an uncommon, for her age, understanding of certain social customs, one of which is the bringing of flowers to funeral homes.  She was very affected by this when Nonno died in December; she and Bugaboo both insisted on bringing their own flower arrangements, both of which were lovingly dried and preserved by Deedaw.

Wednesday, as I was busily packing for our trip to Pittsburgh for Great-Grandma’s funeral, a solemn Beanie approached and advised me, “Mommy, I need to get a flower for Great-Grandma.  She gave me my name.  She gave me my Deedaw.  I want to bring her the prettiest flower in the whole world.”

Beanie is, in fact, named for Great-Grandma.  I had to take a very deep breath before I answered her.  “Okay, Beanie.  What flower would you like to bring her?”

She replied, “I want to bring her rainbow flowers.”

rainbow roses

Photo credit:  100roses.com

Beanie discovered rainbow roses at Wegmans, and has long since decided that they are the most gorgeous things in the world.  I liked the idea of roses that bear the symbol of God’s promises, and, of course, I would have moved mountains to honor her request, coming as it did from the little one who reminded me that we should be happy for Great-Grandma because she went to Heaven.

Thursday morning, on our way out of town, we stopped for Beanie’s flowers.  I have prayed for many blessings upon the kind ladies in the flower shop at Wegmans, because they noted out attire, inquired as to the occasion, and promptly offered to trim the roses and put water tubes on them for Beanie, so her flowers would be beautiful.

When we arrived at the funeral home, Beanie was her usual exuberant self, and I helped her put her flowers in the casket with Great-Grandma, at her feet, along with a little paper heart she had cut and inscribed, “LOVE DOTS,” before she headed off to have something to eat and play with a horde of cousins she seldom sees.

may 2013 003

The next day, we all gathered again at the funeral home before heading to the church for Great-Grandma’s funeral Mass.  After the priest had led us all in prayer, everyone had the opportunity to see Great-Grandma and offer a last goodbye before her casket was closed.  Once the room had cleared except for Deedaw and her brother and sister, I settled Beanie on my hip so we could say goodbye and offer a prayer together.

We did pray a traditional prayer, and, before we left, I related to Beanie the tale of the last time Manie and I stayed at Great-Grandma’s house.  Great-Grandma had quite the sweet tooth, although she denied it, and Manie and I had a stash of Snickers bars in our gear.  We were staying with her on the occasion of the marriage of two dear friends (who happen to be Mr. Man’s godparents, and who had so much love in their hearts that they invited Great-Grandma to their wedding – in person – on the spur of the moment), and when we returned from the wedding, our Snickers bars had gone missing.  Manie and I had a good laugh over it.  After I related the tale to Beanie, I said to her, “Now let’s offer a special prayer that Jesus will help Great-Grandma find the Snickers bars.”

“Jesus, please help Great-Grandma find the Snickers bars.  She likes them a lot.”

At the church, the priest offered a homily that perfectly explained why Great-Grandma is one of the most important people any of us will ever know.  There were no reporters covering her funeral, no news obituary trumpeting her impact on national or international affairs, but there was a large gathering of family, of the people she had fed and clothed, loved and prayed for, encouraged and, yes, disciplined.  There is great nobility in a life devoted to building and maintaining a family that is pleasing in the eyes of the Lord, in offering prayers of thanksgiving for those who have chosen His path, in offering prayers of intercession for those who have gone astray.  Great-Grandma’s life was a life spent in love, a life spent as an anchor for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, an example of how we are to love and serve one another — an example, that, in the end, that same family needed so that they could love and serve her when her physical and mental faculties withered away, so that we would know that while authentic love doesn’t always look pretty,  it is real, and true, and of God.

may 2013 004

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Great-Grandma, without whom there would have been no Deedaw, no Manie, no Beanie.  Thank You for the lesson You taught through her life, that every vocation lived truly is holy and worthy of respect, whether this world lauds it or not.  Thank You for Your promise that those who earnestly live according to Your Word will be raised up to a joyful eternity with You, and thank You for the rainbow that reminds us of Your vow that You will save.  Please help us teach Your blessings, Lord, that whatever profession they choose, if they offer each day, each little act, to You, the world’s opinion of them will not matter, because You will be their reward.  And thank You, Lord, for a little Beanie who has the wisdom to answer beauty with beauty, and to appreciate Your most priceless gifts.

Oo-ooh, that smell

Here’s the song reference.

I was going a little crazy running around this morning, and I managed to lose track of Mr. Man for a few minutes.  At some point, I heard the door to the upstairs bathroom close, then the heavy thuds of a three-year-old boy doing two-footed jumps down the stairs.  When I heard the door to the boys’ room open and close, I figured he had brushed his teeth, then headed downstairs to play with the spiffy food playsets he received for his birthday.

Until it was time to round up the tribe for a quick run to the grocery store, I really didn’t think any more about his foray into the bathroom.  When I went downstairs to retrieve him and see if he might be aromatic, I was quite surprised that, in addition to the unmistakable odor of a pull-up in need of changing, he was surrounded by an oddly floral scent, which emanated most strongly from his Chuck E Cheese t-shirt.

As I went about cleaning up his odoriferous bum, I had a little chat with my oldest son.

“Mr. Man, why do you smell like flowers?”
“Bugaboo likes flowers.”
“Yes, she does.  Mr. Man, did you spray yourself with something?”
“Yes.  I spray pee pee in my diaper.”
“Mr. Man, honey, did you spray something on your shirt?”
“Yes, I spray something on my Chuck E Cheese shirt.”
“Did you borrow Bugaboo’s perfume?”
“No, I not borrow Bugaboo’s perfume.”
“Where were you when you sprayed something on your Chuck E Cheese shirt?”
“I spray something on my shirt in the bafroom.”
“Was it the upstairs bathroom or the downstairs bathroom, sweetie?”
“It was the upstairs bafroom.”
“Do you remember what color it was?”
“It was BLUE!!!!”
“Very good, then.  Mr. Man, if you want to spray anything you find in the bathroom, please come get Mommy first, so I can tell you if it’s good to spray on you.  If it’s not something good to spray on you, I will help you find something that is good to spray on you.”
“Okay, Mommy.  Are we ready to rock and roll?”
“We will be soon.  I need you to put your shoes on and put your play foods away, okay?”
“Okay, Mommy.  Then we can rock and roll!”

After lifting the big fellow down from the changing table, I ran up the stairs and flung open the door to the upstairs bath.  Quickly perusing the contents of the vanity top, I ascertained that there were, in fact, three bottles of blue liquid thereupon.  One was mouthwash, one was ordinary Windex, and one was the Windex touch-up cleaner that’s become my best cleaning buddy of late.  I’d been cleaning the bathroom yesterday and completely forgot to lock them back up under the sink.  From the floral smell, I could eliminate the possibility that he’d been into the mouthwash, and experimental sniffs of the other two bottles revealed that he had, in fact, scented his shirt with the touch-up stuff.

I managed not to break the bathroom mirror when I banged my head against it.

After securing the cleaning supplies, I headed back down the steps to have a little more of a chat with Mr. Man.

“Hey, buddy.  Have you picked up all of your play food?”
“I looking for one more piece of the cake.  Baby Guy hid it again.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Man.  Here, I’ll help you look.  By the way, can you show me where you sprayed the blue stuff?”
“I spray it HERE!”  He pointed vigorously to Chuck E’s ears.
“Did you spray it anywhere else?”
“Did you get any of it on your face or in your mouth, sweetie?”
“No, Mommy.  Is destinkifier.  Mr. Man put the destinkifier in his armkits, like Daddy.  Destinkifier is NOT TASTY.”

I managed to choke out a request that he change his shirt before I had to flee the room to keep from laughing in front of him.

april 2013 001

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your bright and inquisitive blessings, who look to us for examples of how they should behave.  Thank you for the moments of great humor that result when their imitations are imperfect, and for the twin graces of laughter and gentle redirection.  Please help us gently lead them in the ways they should go, and guard our tongues against the examples we would not have them follow.  Kindle in their hearts a desire for Your wisdom above all else, and until they have attained it, Lord, please give me the presence of mind to lock up all of the cleaning supplies.  Thank You for Your providence, that led Mr. Man to put it on his shirt instead of on his face or in his mouth.